Mt. Ralston

28 Mar 2004 - by George Sinclair

Finding a rare day free of family and business obligations, I decided at the last moment to try and climb Mt. Ralston on skis. For some reason I had never been up this mountain before, and I thought it was high time I visit it. Using Paul Richins book Ski and Snowboard Summits as a guide I headed up Hwy 50. After about 90 minutes of driving I reached the spot Richins discribes in his book - Sierra Pines Road near Camp Sacramento. No parking is allowed directly on this road, but I did succeed in finding a plowed parking area near an empty cabin (Richins' book is not much help here). Hoping that the cabin would stay empty for the next few hours, I parked my car and headed out. Unfortunately, I failed to locate the correct path from near Sierra Pines Road, and instead walked down the road to the trailhead across from Camp Sacramento. After hiking up a steep gully with manzanita for a few hundred feet, I reached a snow covered ridge where I could put my skis on. After a while I picked up some tracks and followed them upwards. In places it got quite steep, and I had to remove my skis to cross small patches of dry ground. Eventually I reached the beautiful upper slopes, and after much zig-zagging I reached the ridge. After removing my skis I walked up to the top, three hours after leaving my car. There were spectacular cornices on the ridge that overlooked a beautiful bowl to the east, and there was a nice view of Lake Tahoe. Except for the one or two bare spots where I had to remove my skis, the ski down to the car went very well. Very nice slopes on this side of Ralston (side facing Hwy 50). It only took me about an hour to ski back down to my car - downhill all the way, and I was able to follow tracks that took me directly down to where Sierra Pines Road meets Hwy 50. The cabin next to where I had left my car was still empty. A safer bet may be just to park across from Camp Sacramento. Surprisingly to me, I found Mt. Ralston to be a very good ski mountain with one of the best downhill runs I've ever found on a dayhike mountain.

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